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Past Turlock footballers meet for breakfast, reminiscing

Past Turlock footballers meet for breakfast, reminiscing

A group of former Turlock High football players from the 1940s and ‘50s gathered at Latif’s Restaurant for a reunion, reminiscing about their long-ago playing days over breakfast Friday morning.

POSTED June 3, 2011 9:55 p.m.

The old men who walked into Latif’s Restaurant on Friday morning were part of a standout bunch.

This was a rare occurrence to have so many stories filling up the back area of the historic eating place. The men smiled, knowing that they hadn’t seen one another for some 20, 30, 40 years. Roy Hedstrom, the organizer of this breakfast reunion, did not shy from the reality of the moment.

“Next year, not many of these guys will be around,” he said.

But their stories will live. The men who gathered at Latif’s played for the Turlock High football program during the late 1940s and ‘50s. Some of them were part of the greatest team of all-time — the ’49 Bulldogs, who won the state title under the MVP leaderships of Paul Larson and Donald Cederlind. Others took more humble roles during their time, but appreciated being a part of the reunion with some of the men now in their late 70s or early 80s.

“Some of them are legends,” said Abe Rojas, who graduated from Turlock in ‘53. He referred to himself as an “average player” during his four years with the Bulldogs. “It was motivation to play after the ’49 team.”

Hedstrom, who graduated in ’55, was in charge of the event. He was asked by several past Bulldogs to organize a meeting to bring together as many of the living players as possible. He was the one who put together a breakfast at Latif’s in the early 2000s to celebrate the life of former Turlock coach Dave Weise. Hedstrom took a couple weeks to make phone calls and landed 44 reservations, with at least 30 of them showing up during the early stages of the breakfast.

Ron Sarhad, now an attorney in Turlock, remembers his playing days. He was 7 years old when the Bulldogs won the state championships in ’49, as he went on to create a legacy for himself. As a junior, he quarterbacked the Bulldogs to a league title in ’57 and, he said, a state championship ranking with three other schools.

“They turned out to be the best San Joaquin Valley football team in comparison to all the years following, in my view,” Sarhad said about ’49 Bulldogs. “Their excellence on the football field made an impact on us for endeavors beyond the game itself.”

And yes, many of the men continued to excel in football, such as Paul Larson, who is considered one of the greatest football players at Cal. Dick Monteith (class of ’50) is on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, and many of the other men contributed in positive ways in and around Turlock. In fact, Latif’s is owned by Jim Stevens, who also played for the Bulldogs in the same era as the men.

“The importance of seeing all these past players allows us to see the success they had in life and how they maintained that success in society,” Hedstrom said.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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